The sounds of scratches and squeaks filled the air in the MacVittie College Union on Saturday March 26, with mammals and reptiles alike visiting the campus as part of Geneseo Late Knight’s Exotic Animal Show. This event was not only a rare spectacle, but also proved to be both informative and inspiring.
In front of an ensemble of small kennels and cages, an excited crowd waited with phones held up to snap a picture of whatever creature would appear. Attendance was overwhelming, with a large group of people standing behind several filled rows of seats. Some viewers even leaned on the walls to their side—all so that they could hear the man with the keys to these kennels and the night’s speaker: biologist and owner of Buffalo Animal Adventures Anthony Kelly.
“I started Buffalo Animal Adventures six years ago, but I’ve been working with wildlife for the majority of my life,” Kelly said.
Kelly participated in studies about the social habits of beluga whales in captivity during his undergraduate and graduate years of school. Throughout the presentation, Kelly expressed his thoughts on captivity based on his personal experiences working with wildlife.
“The whales I worked with were in excellent captive conditions most of the time,” Kelly said. “I have seen places across the United States that don’t have the best conditions though, and that’s really tough to see.”
Kelly started to discuss the ethics of zoos during the presentation, a hot topic for passionate animal lovers. “When zoos started out, they didn’t know a lot about captive care,” Kelly said. “Now, the zoological field has advanced so greatly in the last 50 years that the housing and education facilities are simply phenomenal.”
Kelly could not convey his love for his work more throughout his presentation; his fervor was greatly illustrated in his passionate tone.
“We bring animals to people who would never have a chance to see them in the wild,” Kelly said. “They have an opportunity to connect with animals, and, because of it, develop a deeper understanding.”
Kelly also conducted an informational presentation about some of the wildlife presented and their importance. This included discussing the toad he had brought over for the students to see.
“This is a very unique amphibian called a Colorado River toad, but I call him Atlas,” Kelly said. “They’re the largest toad species found and are mid-level predators. Their toxins are extremely powerful … Any animal that bites on it has their cardiac and respiratory processes halted.”
Kelly strove to educate the crowd on the importance of amphibians. He explained that they are the “first to disappear if a water supply is contaminated.” Because of this, amphibians are called an indicator species.
For those viewers who didn’t find amphibians interesting, however, there were a plethora of other animals that were exhibited. For example, there was a big eared, wide-eyed fennec fox and a seemingly sinister reticulated python that rounded its way around Kelly’s armpit like an old friend.
To end the presentation, out came a marshmallow-eating coatimundi—an animal that resembles a tropical raccoon. The coatimundi sat atop Kelly’s shoulders and curiously sniffed the air.
There was also an open, question and answer session conducted by Kelly for the attendees. Kelly had to cut the question session short, however, beacuse there were too many quesions. Afterwards, his information table had a small group of curious students still waiting to ask questions.
With his undeniable enthusiasm and respect for spreading education and awareness about wildlife preservation, Kelly’s exotic animal show undoubtedly made students a bit more appreciative of these creatures and their significance.